Buongiorno! (or buonasera if you're picking this up after 3 pm)
Aaron drove us to the airport the afternoon of October 3. We stayed overnight at the Fairmont and had dinner at our favourite Japanese restaurant at the airport. It's called Hanami and is quite reasonably priced.
We headed for our scheduled 9:45am flight to Calgary and had breakfast at the Air Canada Lounge. Flying anywhere other than the United States was a new experience for us - no one asked us where we were going, how long we were going for or what was the purpose of our visit. Our luggage was supposedly being sent directly through to Venice. The 9:45am flight was delayed to 10:00am as they discovered that the aircraft had a defective part. When they discovered they didn't have the spare part everyone including the pilots and flight attendants had to walk to another area of the terminal to board another aircraft which delayed us until 10:30am. Our first long walk of the day. The luggage also had to be transferred off the aircraft - so we didn't think we'd see it again! Plus we knew we would be late for our connecting flight to Frankfurt. However, there were 24 of us going on to Frankfurt and they assured us they would hold the aircraft which they did.
We flew Business Class - which is the only way to fly if you can do it. The food was excellent all the way, both Air Canada and Lufthansa. We felt it was great preparation for the cruise. The flights were totally uneventful, not even a bump. The flight to Frankfurt was 8 1/2 hours and then a 2 hour jaunt to Venice. The Frankfurt airport was amazing - huge with cars, trucks and airplanes all being driven here, there and everywhere like they were on the Autobahn. We arrived in Frankfurt at 6:30am which was 9:30pm our time and went to the Lufthansa/Air Canada Lounge. Everyone there was eating breakfast but Larry's clock said it was beer time so he went and grabbed a stein and poured himself a pint of Becks. The Venice airport is quite small and very low key. Lo and behold! Our luggage came off just like it was supposed to - fooled you didn't I?
Venice is NOT handicap accessible! There are many, many bridges all with stairs up one side and stairs down the other side. We took the bus from the airport which was only 2,50 euros each (about $3.75). Of course we had to wrestle our bags on and off. No assistance here! We could have taken a Water Taxi from the airport to our hotel on the Grand Canal but that would have cost 75 to 85 Euros (about $120). The directions to the hotel said when you get off the bus at Piazzele Roma, do not go over the new bridge, turn right, go over two bridges and the hotel would be there. Well, it didn't say to go up to the new bridge, then turn right and go over first the green bridge right beside it. We got off the bus, saw the bridge, turned right and proceeded over two bridges that weren't the right ones. We finally asked in a little shop and she steered us over another bridge and along quite a way. Our first opportunity to try out our very limited Italian. Grazie! Keep in mind we are dragging ourselves and our suitcases which are packed for a 21 day trip upstairs and downstairs, and it's hot and a bit humid.
We finally found the hotel - Hotel Antiche Figure. The people were very nice. They asked us if we'd like to try their new hotel which just opened October 1 - Hotel Canal Grande. So we left our bags there and walked down some back alleys, over another bridge, through a courtyard to the new hotel. It didn't even have a name on it yet. The people there were so nice - Gianni, Lorenzo, Giovanna and Francesca. We didn't have a canal view but a junior suite. When you enter the suite there is a chesterfield and a TV in behind a mirror (you actually watched the TV through the mirror). In the bedroom we had an antique four poster fully canopied bed with an antique dresser (not a lot of room to move around though), and the suite also had two bathrooms, one with a tub/shower and the other with a shower. We didn't really care at this point. Francesca went back to the other hotel and had someone bring our bags. We relaxed for a while and then out we went.
We purchased a 48 hour pass on the Vaporetto or water bus. This is a fantastic system which goes through the Grand Canal from beginning to end, then all around the island. You can hop on and off anywhere. We had a Vaporetto stop just down from our hotel so it was easy to avoid bridges that way. We also arranged to sneak through the kitchen of our hotel so we didn't have to walk all the way around.
The hotel was very quiet. They served a nice breakfast every day included in the cost. We discovered a little dock out front of our hotel that perched right over the Grand Canal. It was only about 6 x 8 in size. Just enough to hold some chairs from the lobby. We spent each evening out there with a drink just watching the traffic. Maureen tried Prosecco which is a local wine, like champagne, but not as dry. We met some very nice people the second day who were staying at the hotel. They were out on the dock when we got home from dinner so we took two more chairs out, Lorenzo brought out two little tables, and we sat and talked until midnight. They live in Lake Tahoe but also have a place in San Francisco. We exchanged contact info and have been invited to visit. The two nights stay in the Hotel Canal Grande in Venice cost 460 Euros ($690 cdn).
We found a couple of nice places to eat in Venice. The first was a little pizza joint in a back alley behind our hotel. Nearby was the tobacconist and a little deli. Larry was first to try a pizza and Maureen had gnocchi. Larry asked for pepperoni and was told it was a vegetable. So he ended up with salami. The next night we went to a cute little place also behind our hotel, and recommended by our hotel, and had pizza again. Larry asked them about pepperoni and was told that sweet peppers are referred to in Italian as pepperoni and that was why we got the answer we did the night before. However, this little restaurant had looked up on the internet to see the correct translation of things and found that pepperoni is a spicy salami. So Larry got his pepperoni! Pizzas are very different. Very thin crust, wonderful tomato sauce and the most common toppings are basil and mozzarella - and not too much of either. They are about the size of our medium and not cut. Molto bene!
While using the Vaporetto, we often got off at stops, went a block off the canal and walked through what seemed like miles of little shops. Maureen bought a beautiful red leather purse and a couple of pashminas. Larry tried to find a coffee shop or a Starbucks as everything in Venice is Espresso. There are no Starbucks in Venice and/or Italy for that matter! On the first day we discovered a McDonalds so we decided to have lunch. A Big Mac, Fries and a drink was 7,90 Euros ($11.85 Cdn). Larry asked about Ketchup but that was another 0,20 Euros so we passed on the ketchup. We did a lot of walking around Venice but avoided the bigger bridges by using the Vaporetto. On one of the days, we were passing another Vaporetto and spotted a couple at the front. We both looked at each other and said, "We know that guy!" Larry said it looked like a friend of Maureen's sister. As soon as we could we sent an e-mail to Pat to ask if these friends were in Venice. Turns out they were and it was probably them. The world is very small - and watch what you're up to, you will be seen!
Washrooms (Toilette or WC - Water Closets as they are referred to) are almost non-existent in Italy. When you do find one they are in a state that is not very healthy and they charge any where from 0,50 to 1,00 Euros. The McDonald's WC was free.
We did not take a gondola ride. We watched many of them go by our hotel while sitting on the deck and we had heard they were quite expensive. And besides, for romance, what better than our little dock!
Arrivederci for now!